LAMB APPLAUDS PLAN TO ENSURE DISABLED VETERANS GET STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS; SAYS MORE WORK TO BE DONE
(WASHINGTON, DC) – In June 2019, Representative Conor Lamb (PA-17), Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14), Joe Courtney (CT-02) and Andy Levin (MI-09) introduced the bipartisan Federally Requiring Earned Education-Debt Discharges for Veterans Act (FREED Vets Act) to require the U.S. Department of Education to automatically discharge federal student loan debt for eligible permanently disabled veterans. A bipartisan companion Senate version of this legislation was introduced by Senators Jack Reed (RI) and Johnny Isakson (GA).
Yesterday, the Administration announced an Executive Order discharging the student debt of totally and permanently disabled veterans. While Congressman Lamb is encouraged by this first step, he will continue working with his colleagues in the House and Senate, as well as the Administration to ensure this change is codified in federal law.
"Not a single disabled veteran in America should be forced to live under the weight of student debt, and they shouldn't have to file paperwork or cut through red tape to get the relief they earned through their sacrifices for this country,” said Lamb. “We've been pushing the administration to take this action since December of last year, and I'm glad that they have, but we have more work to do. I introduced the FREED Vets Act to make student debt forgiveness for disabled veterans automatic, both now and in the future, regardless of who is in the White House. I'm going to keep working with my colleagues in both parties to get it passed, and yesterday's Executive Order gives me more confidence that the President will sign our bill into law as soon as it reaches his desk."
“I applaud the Administration’s decision to cancel student loan debt for permanently disabled veterans,” said Fitzpatrick. “These brave men and women have sacrificed immensely to protect our freedom and way of life and should not be saddled with high levels of student debt. I look forward to continuing on this progress and urge Congress to pass our FREED Vets Act to streamline the process of giving veterans the benefits they are owed.”
“I’m grateful to President Trump for his unwavering support for our nation’s veterans, and I applaud his actions to erase federal student loan debt for thousands of disabled veterans,” said Reschenthaler. “Now the House must build upon the president’s efforts and pass the FREED Vets Act so we can provide our veterans with the certainty of law.”
“I appreciate that the President is finally encouraging the Department of Education and the VA to work together to expedite loan forgiveness for our nation’s disabled veterans, especially after months of advocacy led by Congressmen Lamb and Fitzpatrick,” said Courtney. “However, this issue remains far from resolved and I urge the House to take up the bipartisan FREED Vets Act to ensure that our heroes who made incredible sacrifices for our country continue to get the restitution they rightfully deserve.”
“There’s no question that disabled veterans must be freed from the burden of student loan debt,” said Levin. “Now, we have to enshrine this important policy in law. I look forward to moving the FREED Vets Act over the finish line to do just that.”
“I’m pleased to see President Trump taking action to ensure totally and permanently disabled veterans receive the student loan relief they are owed,” said Isakson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and member of the Senate education committee. “This executive action mirrors legislation I’ve introduced to make this debt forgiveness benefit automatic for eligible veterans. I look forward to supporting the president in furthering our shared goal of taking care of our veterans who sacrificed so much.”
“These courageous veterans and eligible servicemembers racked up student loan costs they shouldn't have had to pay. The Administration's announcement is better late than never, but it is only a half step. We must ensure every veteran who became disabled during their service to our nation gets their student loans forgiven without delay. The best way to do that is to pass the bipartisan Reed-Isakson bill,” said Reed, the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “And more broadly, the Administration should be more proactive in ensuring that all who are entitled to loan forgiveness have an expedited path to receiving it.”
Lamb, in partnership with Fitzpatrick, led an initial letter to the Department of Education on December 21, 2018 and a follow-up letter on March 6, 2019, inquiring about the status of the data matching program between their department and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), and calling on the Administration to expedite this critical relief to thousands of veterans.
At a joint field hearing in April, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs pressed the Department of Education to enact this very program. The FREED Vets Act currently has 19 bipartisan cosponsors and is supported by Student Veterans of America, The Retired Enlisted Association, Veterans Education Success, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), U.S. Army Warrant Officers Association, Higher Ground Veterans Advocacy, as well as 51 state attorneys general, and multiple tax law experts.
FREED Vets Act Background:
In October 2018, the U.S Department of Education established a program with the VA to identify veterans who are disabled or unable to work. Under the current program, the Department of Education then notifies veterans who are eligible for debt forgiveness of the opportunity to apply. The FREED Vets Act would automatically forgive these loans and eliminate the paperwork barrier that prevents eligible veterans from attaining student loan debt relief. More than 42,000 eligible veterans have been identified by the Department of Education, yet only 20 percent of those eligible have applied for the program.